Adaptive learning refers to the personalization of learning experiences for students using computer-based technology. Using adaptive learning technologies, computers modify (adapt) the learning content according to students’ learning needs, based on their responses to questions, tasks and experiences. This approach differs from traditional approaches to computer-based training, in which the content remains stagnant, and the learner must adapt his/her learning style to the content as it is designed.

The development of adaptive learning technologies has been driven by the need to tailor learning content so that learners with various skill levels can more efficiently consume information based on their specific needs. This personalization ultimately improves learner retention, increases engagement and achieves a positive return on investment in the training experience. Its objective is to transform the learner from a passive receptor of content to a more collaborative participant in the learning process.

In addition, adaptive learning reduces the amount of scrap learning – learning that was delivered but not applied on the job. According to Corporate Executive Board research, 45% of corporate learning is scrap learning. Scrap learning happens for several reasons, the predominant ones being content that is delivered but not directly relevant, ineffective delivery, and low learner motivation. In order to create effective learning experiences, adaptive learning strategies use a data-driven approach and benefit both the teacher and learner.

Creating Adaptive Learning Solutions

A key component in creating an adaptive learning solution is leveraging big data to target all types of learners. By using big data to understand past experiences and develop best learning practices, it becomes easier to analyze specific behavioral patterns that can be used to improve learning systems and enhance learner success.

Current adaptive learning technologies are derived from artificial intelligence systems that gained popularity as far back as the 1970s. Adaptive learning is becoming increasingly popular in the corporate training industry, as it has traditionally been in the education sector. Businesses today are starting to understand the importance of personalizing learning so that participants can use their knowledge and skills to organize their own learning experiences. Adaptive learning empowers employees to take control of their professional development by allowing them to learn at their own pace and build the skills and confidence they need to be successful.

Many adaptive learning technologies use educational game design. The most accepted design theory is ALGAE (Adaptive Learning Game dEsign). This approach is based on a host of game design theories and practices, instructional strategies, and adaptive models. ALGAE is now the basis for the design and development of educational computer games.

While adaptive learning can replace the traditional classroom environment, it does not completely rule out in-person instruction. Often, with the ability to spend less time on content delivery, instructors can incorporate a blend of online and in-person instruction with a focus on promoting learner engagement.

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